5 Skills Every College Graduate Needs
No matter how highly ranked your alma mater is, your degree can’t possibly prepare you for every situation you’ll encounter in the real world. To maximize the impact of your natural-born talents and increase your perceived value to your future employers, you’ll need a slew of additional skills.
These skills can be found in many places. Some college students decide the best way to gain real-world experience is to launch their own businesses. Business.com contributor Lucinda Watrous has a great piece on successful entrepreneurs who got their start in college, like George Otte.
Other students pursue internships (paid or unpaid), snag part-time gigs, or take on research projects within their academic departments. Still others play sports or throw themselves into extracurricular activities such as student government.
No matter your strengths, opportunities abound. But it’s best not to approach those opportunities indiscriminately. Select your pursuits with an eye to the critical skills you’ll need as you transition from student life to real life. As you narrow down your choices, look for chances to build or strengthen these five essential skills for college grads in 2017 and beyond.
1. Effective Verbal and Written Communication
Fast Company flagged this as one of the top skills that recent college graduates lack, per a survey of America’s hiring managers.
According to the survey, nearly half of all hiring managers said that new hires’ writing skills were subpar. In a business world where intra-office email and chat increasingly drive decision-making and collaboration, a single misplaced word or ill-timed reference can have tremendous reverberations.
2. Critical Thinking
This is another skill that Fast Company found wanting in new grads—somewhat surprisingly, given the centrality of critical thinking to the mission of higher education. Critical thinking is likely to be less of an emphasis in STEM disciplines, so if you’re a math or science major, look for extracurricular pursuits or side projects (such as research) that let you exercise that particular mental muscle.
3. Cognitive Load Management
In today’s fast-paced media environment, “information overload” is a way of life. Recent college grads must be able to distinguish relevant facts from irrelevant clutter in real time, no matter how much comes their way. The good news is that, as digital natives, today’s college students have been managing cognitive loads their entire lives. This is therefore a skill that comes naturally to many.
4. Interdisciplinary Thinking
The workplace is less siloed than ever, and most of the easy problems have already been solved. Those that remain require complex, multipolar thinking that draws from multiple disciplines. In other words, your major alone (and your specific subset of skills) won’t be enough—you’ll need to collaborate with colleagues whose strengths look very different from your own, or draw upon your own broad reserves of knowledge and experience to find novel ways forward.
5. Willingness To Learn New Skills
Today’s employers prize flexibility. You’re likely to hold several jobs over the course of your career—and maybe more, especially if you work in a consulting role. Each employer is going to require a different mix of skills and competencies from you. And the nature of your work is going to change dramatically as your career progresses. Your education won’t end when you get your diploma; it’ll just move to a new venue.
The Skills of Tomorrow
Bookmark this list. Check it next year, and the next, and the next.
Chances are good that most of the skills listed above won’t go out of fashion anytime soon. They’re simply too important in a professional milieu that will increasingly value the sorts of soft skills and emotional intelligence that automation, artificial intelligence, and algorithms can’t (yet) replicate.
However, this certainly isn’t a complete list of all the essential skills that today’s college grads need to demonstrate. Nor is it a concise summation of the key skills that tomorrow’s grads will need. If you’re looking ahead to your own graduation, or worried about a child’s workforce debut some years hence, know that this isn’t the last word.
The world is changing too fast for that.
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